USCL Week 6 Preview/Predictions
The USCL is now entering its second half of regular season play, and the importance of each week grows exponentially. Despite starting off as the goat of league, with just half a point from the first three matches, New Jersey has managed to win our last 2 consecutive matches en route to a playoff position.
However, our work is far from done, with Philadelphia just a half-point behind and Manhattan just a half-point behind them. Week 6 sees interdivisional play, which can be a great chance to achieve seperation or a disaster as we tumble down the ranks.
As fate would have it, we are paired against the top team in the Northeast division - the New England Nor'easters. With a commanding 4-1 record ceding draws only to Boston and Connecticut, NE currently holds a full point lead ahead of their field and looks to run away with the division with a win this week.
|New England Nor'easters||New Jersey Knockouts|
|GM Alexander Ivanov: 2624||GM Alex Stripunsky: 2651|
|IM David Vigorito: 2532||GM Alex Fishbein: 2601|
|NM Andrew Liu: 2296||NM Christopher Wu: 2288|
|NM Lawyer Times: 2261||John Michael Burke: 2163|
|Average Rating: 2428||Average Rating: 2426|
As has been typical for the last few weeks, both teams are putting together some of their best lineups. Both teams have an average rating well over 2400, with a duo of titled players on the top boards. Notable is the absence of top GM Sam Shankland, who had a disappointing debut last week despite the team saving the draw.
With their top GM unavailable GM Alexander Ivanov leads the charge for New England, taking the white pieces against GM Alex Stripunsky. Both players are well-known throughout the country and drew their game (with reversed colors) in the first week of the previous season. Ivanov is one of the few strong GMs who relies mostly on 1. e4, but is also known for his horrendous time trouble. Stripunsky typically lpay simple, solid chess and just outplays his opponent, which should make for an interesting clash. Expect something solid and not much happening for a while, then it finally gets more interesting and time pressure starts to play a role. Unfortunately it's simple enough that it can be worked out without a great deal of time and a draw ensues.
The second board sees the USCL season debut of GM Alex Fishbein for New Jersey. He's played just 2 USCL games before, both in 2011 with a loss to Jonathan Schroer and a draw against John Fedorowicz. On the other side, IM David Vigorito was one of the driving forces behind NE's induction into the league, and has played frequently in all of the seasons of NE's existance. Yet GM Fishbein is still quite an active player and floats between 2550 and 2600. He'll make good use of the white pieces and win a key game for NJ.
On the third board two young juniors go at it, with New Jersey's Christopher Wu setting up the black pieces against Andrew Liu. Both players are rated about 2300, and both are 14 years old. Most likely they'll play out a long heavily theoretical line and the game won't really start until move 15 or so, then their knowledge will pay equal dividends and one of them holds a pawn-down rook endgame for a draw.
The final board sees the USCL season debut of John Michael Burke, a possibly even more promising junior who at 12 years old recently earned the NM title. He has the white pieces against Lawyer Times, who has had an impressive season thus far, with 3 wins against fairly strong opposition, including Nicolas Checa who is an even more impressive junior (too many impressive juniors bah). Despite this, I suspect Burke is quite happy with his pairing, taking the white pieces against a slightly higher rated player, and having watched him play recently I'm quite comfortable calling an upset here.
With that, NJ continues their winning streak with a 3-1 victory (finally one of our matches ends in something other than 2.5-1.5 or 2-2?), and cements our position in our division as the playoffs draw nearer.
And now I shall treat you to yet another display of my amazing clairvoyence (we'll just pretend I'm actually getting some stuff right)
|Connecticut Dreadnoughts||Manhattan Applesauce|
|GM Robert Hess: 2636||1||0||GM Zviad Izoria: 2624|
|IM Jay Bonin: 2436||0||1||GM Robert Hungaski: 2541|
|SM Joshua Colas: 2405||.5||.5||NM Ryan Goldenberg: 2348|
|NM Kapil Chandran: 2330||1||0||Shaun Smith: 2061|
|Average Rating: 2452||Average Rating: 2394|
Connecticut helps us out here by sinking Manhattan. We haven't heard much of Hess recently, probably because of a rigorous college schedule, but he's still one of the top players in the country and will outplay Izoria with the white pieces from a fairly equal position. Manhattan strikes back with their second GM, who takes down the iconic IM Jay Bonin on the second board. Goldenberg has had an amazing season thus far (oops), but asking for the full point with black against Josh Colas is a little bit difficult. On the other hand I'll be pretty surprised if he loses, so I'll predict a draw in which Goldenberg has the better chances. The last board sees a huge rating discrepancy and I like the points. Connecticut takes full advantage of our forthcoming win over NE and closes the gap.
|Baltimore Kingfishers||Philadelphia Inventors|
|IM Levan Bregadze: 2469||.5||.5||FM Tom Bartell: 2496|
|IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat: 2492||.5||.5||FM Dov Gorman: 2362|
|NM Jared Defibaugh: 2297||.5||.5||NM Peter Minear: 2385|
|NM Ian Schoch: 2294||.5||.5||FM Karl Dehmelt: 2260|
|Average Rating: 2388||Average Rating: 2376|
I started to think about these games individually and none of them jump out to me as being decisive. Most of the players I think are a bit stronger (Minear, Enkhbat, Schoch) all have black, and I think Bartell will hold a somewhat worse position without a great deal of difficulty. I wouldn't be surprised if this actually turned out to be all draws.
|Boston Blitz||New York Knights|
|IM Marc Esserman: 2569||0||1||GM Tamaz Gelashvili: 2699|
|SM Denys Shmelov: 2465||0||1||SM Matt Herman: 2424|
|NM Vadim Martirosov: 2349||0||1||FM Akshat Chandra: 2395|
|NM Ilya Krasik: 2286||.5||.5||NM Alex King: 2297|
|Average Rating: 2417||Average Rating: 2454|
I went back and forth on these but somehow ended up with a very lopsided score. Esserman-Gelashvili will be a crazy game, as both players just want to go crazy and win in the complications, but I'll give the nod to the stronger player despite being black. Herman wants to go even crazier and be down lots of material in the process, which should make for an interesting duel as Shmelov is a very solid player. But Herman has had a difficult season and is due for his crazy sacrifices to finally crash through. Vadim missed a win last week but just had a very difficult position with white out of the opening and I like Akshat's chances, while Krasik will be the sole saving grace for Boston as he fends off King's attacks on the king (oho) and collects the sole half-point.
All these matches tomorrow night on chess.com's server, with commentary on chess.com/tv. Thanks to our sponsors PokerStars and chess.com, and let's go NJ!